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The wind blew hard in Aran’s face as he rode his syclone as hard as he could over the rough planetary terrain. So much was on his mind. Every time he felt like he was finally getting away from his past, something always pulled him back in. When he joined Starfleet, he felt like it was what he meant to do. But the moment he met some of the senior officers, including Admiral Mattingly and Ramon, they treated him differently. He kind of suspected it was also one of the reasons why Raf turned on him.
He gripped the handlebars extremely hard at the thought of Raf. It was his doing that had set everything into motion regarding this “so-called” destiny that quite a number of people believed in. Raf’s murder of his best friend and his subsequent escape had changed him. And when both Ramon and Admiral Mattingly told him who he really was and where he was actually from, he didn’t quite believe it, until he saw the photograph that contained both his mother and father.
He placed the bike on auto drive and closed his eyes for a few seconds. Before that moment he had found out who she was, he had dreamed of her; his mother. She had always opened her mouth and said something but he had never heard what it was. But when he found out who she was, she kept calling him by his name.
He had heard it every time since.
It always felt real as if she was actually talking to him.
How strange, he could actually hear her now.
“Dammitt, Aran, will you please answer me!”
Aran’s eyes flew open as Danyelle’s voice blasted through his bike’s com. He grumbled something about Danyelle and the sheer annoyance of her voice before he responded.
“What?” He asked. “Can’t someone enjoy the time he doesn‘t have to hear your voice?”
“Did you fall asleep?” She asked, ignoring his remark.
“Because you’re bike’s on auto drive, you idiot,” she replied testily. “And you’ve lagged behind.”
Aran flipped the switch back to manual from auto drive. He roughly gripped the handlebars and mentally willed the bike to go faster. He grinned as he began catching up to both Danyelle and Av. Though Danyelle’s syclone was a newer model than Av’s, neither one was anything like his. It was a prototype that Av had been working on right before they left Starfleet. They had smuggled it out in parts and put it back together when they started working for Drabek Shipping. There was not another syclone like it in existence.
“By the way,” Danyelle said to him. “Just out of curiosity, did you really have to leave him hanging from the roof of that bar?”
“Of course,” Aran replied with a grin.
Danyelle just rolled her eyes and laughed. In a way, she couldn’t blame him for what he did. Being outnumbered, harassed, and then attacked, and still coming out on top like he did, well, she was sure she would’ve done the same thing. She also knew the seriousness of his quest for Klaw, though she never really cared for it, something she had let him know about many times in the past, she knew it was something that he had to do, but she also worried it would be the death of him. Destiny or not, she felt Aran still had his limits.
They had known each other for years, even before joining Starfleet. They had even dated at one point. No one knew them like they knew each other and it had been one hell of a fling until the Princess Ashlynn fiasco. Then whenever Raf had murdered Paul, he changed and became almost distant. Danyelle never cried but when Aran left Starfleet, she cried for weeks on end. She had last seen him at a social party for Admiral Mattingly. As he said goodbye to her that night, he smiled at her as he wiped a tear from her eyes and what he whispered into her ear she had never forgotten.
But that had been three star years ago. She wasn’t sure where they stood. He still seemed distant, as if to never let anyone in.
“Who’s lagging behind now, Hawkins,” Aran said through the bike’s com.
The teasing comment broke her from her inner thoughts as she shook her head to clear it and realized that both Aran and Av had a sizeable lead over her. That, coupled with Aran calling her by her surname, seemed to anger her. She narrowed her eyes as she squeezed the accelerator to try and catch up to them.
“Aran, you arrogant son of a ….,” She began but was drowned out by another voice through her communicator.
“Language, Lieutenant, language,” said the voice. “There may be eavesdroppers about or small children even.”
“Very funny, Hot Rod,” Danyelle replied through clenched teeth as the star cruiser came into view. “Just drop the ramp so we can enter and get off this miserable planet.”
Hot Rod’s sarcastic laughter buzzed in her ear as the docking ramp had just finished lowering. One by one they all went up the ramp into the small docking bay. Danyelle grumbled something unintelligible as she parked her syclone near the only starjet that was on board. She yanked off her helmet and slammed it down as she stormed out of the bay area.
“She’s bloody unhinged,” Av commented. “What’s up with her?”
“Have no idea,” Aran replied. “Mood swings, maybe?”
The docking bay doors slid open again, allowing Hot Rod to enter. Aran chuckled at him as he kept looking out the bay doors until they closed.
“You always did know how to rile her up,” Hot Rod told Aran as they shook hands.
“Good to see you, amigo,” Aran replied back. “You remember Av, don’t you.”
“Yes I do,” Hot Rod said as he shook Av’s hand. “I remember, along with Wyn, Danyelle, and Paul, getting blitzed at graduation.”
“Ahh yes, one of me finer moments,” Av replied.
Aran turned to Hot Rod. “Do you have any idea what’s going on?” He asked him.
“Not really,” Hit Rod replied, shaking his head. “There’s a lot of rumors going around. All they would tell us is that Princess Ashlynn Ascalon of Tranax was kidnapped.”
“Princess?” Av asked. “I thought Tranax’s government abolished monarchism.”
“They did,” Aran replied. “Her mother was a Thermottian Princess and she married Count Ascalon, who’s an important figure in Starfleet.”
“Yeah, well, anyway, I need to get back to the bridge before Danyelle has a fit,” Hot Rod said, ending that particular discussion. “You might want to get some rest.”
Hot Rod showed the both of them where their sleeping quarters were and then left for the bridge. As he was walking away, Aran heard Hot Rod’s wrist com go off followed by the sound of Danyelle’s voice. With a chuckle and a slight wave to Av, Aran entered his room and laid gingerly down on the bed.
“Not as comfortable as I’m used to, but it’ll do,” he said as he stretched to get as comfortable as he could.
His thoughts went back to Ramon and this meeting. He sighed wearily, as he reached into a concealed pocket on his tunic and pulled out the picture he had carried on him for nearly two years. He stared at his parents and wondered where he would be had they been alive. Would they be disappointed in him now? He then looked at Admiral Mattingly, who had once told him that no matter how hard he tried, his destiny was something he would have to face. He then remembered the question Admiral had asked him. “What are you wanting to do?“ He was sure both Ramon and Admiral Mattingly both expected him to say that he was ready or at least prepare himself for the task at hand. When he had told them there were more important things for him to think of and do at the time, he was sure that they were extremely disappointed.
Admiral Mattingly was a bit more understanding than Ramon was. He had transferred Aran to work out of his office a bit and then gave him permission to seek out Raf, which only came about after several patient months of waiting for Admiral Mattingly to okay it. When it was initially turned down, he swore he would resign. Ramon was furious at him for that. Theirs was a relationship on the breaking point, but Aran didn’t care. He just wanted revenge on Raf. When Admiral Mattingly died, he was out near Chappala, checking out rumors that Raf had been seen there. He had tried to make it back for the funeral but missed it. This infuriated Ramon even more. He severely gave Aran an earful about his “ridiculous quest.” When Aran volunteered to go on a mission to help stabilize the border between Starmax and Krenox, Ramon flat out refused. He later heard that Ramon had taken the rejection of his heritage as an insult to the memory of his parents.
He sighed and closed his eyes as he yawned. He wasn’t even for sure how Ramon was going to take seeing him again considering the last time they had met was when Aran handed in his resignation. Ramon had went ballistic, accusing Aran of shirking his duties and destiny. Shirking his duties or not, Aran felt it was the right thing to do. Truthfully, he knew he would have to confront Zapato. His own homeworld was part of the Centratti Empire. He wasn’t ready at that time, at least that’s what he felt. That was one of the reasons he resigned and went to work for Wyn. Though, he wasn’t for sure if he was ready now. As he fell asleep, Aran hoped that rescuing Princess Ashlynn was the only thing Ramon wanted him to do.